The Test Ban Treaty
Jude Wanniski
October 20, 1999


Your Saturday report in the Times about the Senate rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was just fine, as far as it went, but it did not go very far. The experts you called for their opinions really don't know enough to have relevant opinions on these matters. Historians and political science professors only know what they read in the newspapers, and if all they read is what other historians and poli sci professors are saying, you will get the same meaningless feedback. The professor you quoted who compared this to the rejection of the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations because of the efforts of Republican Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge in opposing the Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, was especially sophomoric. There is nothing to be learned by a recitation of history that says a Republican Senator a long time ago killed a treaty signed by a Democratic President. You should have asked the professor what this means?

Was it a good thing that Lodge did? Is it a good thing what Senate Majority Trent Lott did? I'm sure he would say Lodge was a bad guy, although any realistic review of history tells us that even President Franklin Roosevelt thought the Versailles Treaty was a stinkeroo, which helped bring on WWII. Our schoolteachers and history books still have not caught up with this opinion, but teach our children, with tears in their eyes, about the awful Republicans and the wonderful Woodrow and how his peace plans were being rejected by them. Of course you were taught this when you were a lad, as was I. But you should spend more time as a grown-up reviewing the past. There is a parallel here, but it in fact favors the Republican rejection of the CTBT, which might actually help prevent bad things from happening in the generation ahead. The heart of the problem, Adam, is that the cream of the press corps is running around asking the wrong people the wrong questions. "Conservative" reporters are scarcely any better than "liberal" reporters.

Your colleague at the Times, R.W.Apple, Jr., the senior-most national correspondent, had a downright silly piece on the front page when the treaty was voted down, revealing his basic confusion about nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, accompanied by enough flimsy to indicate he didn't know much about the topic even as he wrung his hands about the dire implications of the Senate's action. The CTBT is not a non-proliferation treaty, remember. It is a disarmament treaty, with the U.S. going first! It is aimed at having all its signatores conduct no tests in the future so that gradually all nuclear weapons have turned to dust and mankind can live in a nuclear-free world forever, or until the chickens come home to roost, whichever comes first.

Instead of calling an uninformed historian, I asked Dr. Gordon Prather, a nuclear physicist who worked in weapons development and also served as an assistant secretary of the army for science and technology in the Reagan administration. He also is author of the Prather Report, which shredded the Cox Commission findings about how the Chinese were stealing all our best secrets. I asked him to stand back and give me his worst-case scenario about how things will proceed from this point on, along with an assessment of the CTBT on its merits:

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My worst case scenario is that Clinton-O'Leary-Greenpeace will get away with it, the U.S. will unilaterally disarm, CTBT ratified or not, which is what I suspect they have promised the Greenies here and in Europe that their goal has been from the gitgo. The Clinton-Demogogues have conned the U.S. electorate into believing that the U.S. is the world leader in all things nuclear -- nuclear weapons development, nuclear power production, disposition of plutonium, radioactive site cleanup, etc., etc. And the sole purpose of the CTBT is to "lock-in" our superiority. The truth is quite the opposite. We have no superiority to "lock-in." We essentially quit the nuclear power field during the Carter Administration and are now twenty years behind Europe and Russia in all nuclear-power related matters and may well now be behind the Russians and the French in nuclear weapon development.

It all goes back to the Carter decision to forgo "reprocessing" of "spent" nuclear fuel. That decision was based on the Green arguments that separating Plutonium from spent fuel would be a nuclear-proliferating activity. Nobody else in the world [except the Greenies] accepted that. And in fact, if we fail to become an active participant in the New Nuclear Era -- the era of MOX-fuel -- not only will we not be in a position to help the Russians prevent the only proliferation that really matters [HE URANIUM or weapons grade Plutonium], but the decision by Carter to forgo reprocessing will rank with the Chinese decision of about AD 1300 to cease voyages of global exploration.

The bottom-line on CTBT, Jude, is that any nation [U.S. and Russia included] develops nukes in response to a perceived threat and during the Cold War there were two major threats for both U.S. and Russia, [1] Strategic: MAD-ICBMs and [2] Tactical: massed armor in the Fulda Gap. Any future nuke development will be to address the Post-Cold War Emerging Threat, which [putting aside for the moment the idiotic NATO eastward expansion] are basically the same for both U.S. and Russia: namely [1] nuclear terrorism by non-national organizations and [2] one-zy and two-zy ICBM launches by rogue states.

The nuclear tests that the U.S. and/or Russia might wish to conduct will, necessarily, be to address the Emerging Threat, and as the Senate and Duma have demonstrated, it would be idiocy for either of the World's Nuclear Superpowers to ratify a treaty [CTBT] which would forever prohibit them from conducting tests of nuclear weapons systems designed to counter that Threat. There are two classes of nuclear weapons that the U.S. and Russia might need to develop [which would require testing] that come to mind. [1] Deep earth-penetrating nuclear weapons [to 'take out' deep underground nuclear weapons-related factories of the type North Korea is suspected of having constructed or attempted to construct] and [2] spaced based, Star-Wars-like, quick response to one-zy and two-zy ICBM launches by rogue states.

The principal well-recognized Post-Cold War Emerging Threat to both the U.S. and Russia is nuclear terrorism by non-national [which means that we can't deter them with Massive Retaliation] groups. However, working together, we [the U.S. and Russia, principally] can prevent nuclear terrorism by non-national groups, by denying them the fissile materials [principally highly enriched Uranium-HEU] to construct their terrorist devices, and/or safeguarding and securing the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that we are retiring from our no longer needed Cold War Threat stockpiles.

Getting that critical cooperation with the Russians will not now be easy since the Clinton Administration [apparently] disregarded the negative impact on U.S.-Russian relations in [1] unilateral U.S.-UK [essentially NATO] day-in day-out bombing of Iraq for the past year or so, [2] aggressive extension of NATO [and the Fulda Gap Tactical Threat] eastward to the boundaries of the old Soviet Union [3] unilateral NATO bombing of a sovereign State [Yugoslavia] in support of an Islamic self-governing insurgency. [Note: the Russians have their own domestic Islamic self-governing insurgency. Will NATO bomb Russia? Stay tuned, the wonderful Clinton Admin.. types that wreaked all the above cited havoc with U.S.-Russian relations will be in power for at least another year.]

Because of the idiotic eastward expansion of NATO, the Russians have concluded that they not only cannot continue to rid themselves of the tactical nukes they had developed to use against NATO, but need to develop new classes of tactical nuclear weapons, which will need to be tested. [I have not seen any report of the reaction of DUMA leadership to the Senate rejection of the CTBT, but they certainly must understand why the Senate did what it had to do, and it probably reinforced their determination to do the same.] But the efforts by the Clinton Administration -- as reported in the attached Associated Press 10/16/99 piece -- to cooperate with the Russians in addressing the Rogue State one-zy and two-zy ICBM nuke threat are very encouraging. Now if the Clinton Administration would either [1] withdraw from NATO or [2] invite Russia to join NATO, then maybe we could cooperatively begin to address the principal Post Cold War nuke threat: Namely, terrorist groups getting access to fissile materials or to nuclear weapons being dismantled.

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Now, Adam, I do not mean to suggest that Dr. Prather's comments constitute the Truth, only that they should indicate you and your colleagues in the press corps have barely scratched the surface of this most important sector of the world political economy. You should make a few more phone calls, and so should Johnny Apple.